River to River

Weekdays at 12 p.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 10 p.m. on IPR News

River to River is Iowa Public Radio's talk program focusing on the news, issues and events in our state. This national award-winning program goes beyond the headlines, frames community problems, and fosters conversation. On Mondays during the legislative session, join in conversations with lawmakers and those impacted by action at the Statehouse.  Wednesdays, political analysts from around the state help you dissect the week in politics.  Fridays we buzz through the week’s big news stories.

River to River is hosted by Ben Kieffer.  It’s produced by Emily Woodbury, @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.

MjZ Photography / Flickr

Rey Junco, an associate professor in the school of education at Iowa State University, believes the long-held wisdom is true--if you want to do well in class, you have to spend time with the material. But with shifty students who might inflate how much time they're spending reading, he's had to get more creative with how he collects data.

"We often identify students who are struggling by their grades--by their poor grades or their poor attendance or something that we can measure. But often by the time we've measured it, it's too late."

Emily Woodbury

This program originally aired on November 17, 2014.

This year, U.S. farmers are bringing in what is expected to be a record breaking harvest. On this edition of River to River - the modern day harvest.

Iowa Historical Society

From Howard Dean’s famous scream to campaign buttons, bumper stickers, and other memorabilia, a new exhibit at the Iowa History Museum takes a a look back at four decades of the Iowa caucuses.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Black Iowans feel profiled by police, and reviews have found that Iowa’s profiling policies fall short of national standards.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with those calling for change in the way justice is implemented in Iowa, a state that holds the number one ranking in the nation for incarcerating African Americans on a per capita basis.

“The problem at this point is over incarceration; it’s not skyrocketing crime rates," says Vikrant Reddy, senior fellow at the Charles Koch Institute. "Those are actually declining."

courtesy of Brad Anderson

Above + Beyond Cancer, a Des Moines-based non-profit, was planning on taking a group of caregivers and cancer survivors to Nepal. Then, the earthquake hit. Dr. Richard Deming, founder of the group, says that changed everything.

Ripley Entertainment

Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the organization that collects and exhibits oddities from all over the world, has a new book Eye Popping Oddities that highlights a few Iowans.

Edward Meyer, Vice President of Exhibits and Archives, has been traveling the world collecting unusual stories and artifacts for more than three decades. 

"If you look at page 230 in the  new book, we have a photo of a guy who collected his fingernail clippings for over 10 years and sent me a paper weight made of them," he laughs. "It's probably buried under paper." 

Flickr / dawgfanjeff

People near Iowa City planning to watch tonight’s super-lunar eclipse, are invited to the roof of Van Allen Hall at the University of Iowa. A group of UI astronomers is holding a public viewing of the phenomena which occurs once perhaps only two or three decades.

Brian Timmermeister / Flickr


When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the Republican Presidential Primary Monday, that left one Midwesterner left in the GOP field--Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich has visited the state far less than some of his Republican counterparts, just twice in this election cycle. That will change when he stops by Sioux City, Council Bluffs, and Davenport in the next week. Kasich isn't worried about that lack of time he's spent in the state.

Alfredo Borba / Wikimedia Commons

The Pope landed in the States for the first time, in his papacy and in his lifetime, this week. When he opened his remarks at the White House with a reference to his immigrant childhood, things quickly took a turn for the political, as he went on to mention Obama's environmental policies.

Hans Hassell, a political science professor at Cornell College, says despite the Pope's praise for an Obama-led clean air policy, Pope Francis's views can't be described neatly as Republican or Democrat.

Daniel Moon

During the Vietnam War, Iowa earned a reputation for being one of the most welcoming places in the world for refugees. But since September 11, 2001, the number of Iowa families hosting refugee families has dropped precipitously, by over 90 percent according to the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Immigration.

John Wilken, Director of the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services, says there are a number of reasons for that, including a change in the direction of services and a change in how much volunteer time Iowans are willing to commit to helping newcomers to the state. 

Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum

The United State's new deal with Iran about its nuclear program is just the latest in a story that stretches back more than 50 years.

During this hour on River to River, NPR’s Steven Inskeep talks about the history of Iran’s nuclear program and its connection with the United States, which starts with a nuclear reactor that was built on the campus of Tehran University in 1957.

University of Iowa photo

On this news buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer sits down with Christina Bohannan, president of the University of Iowa Faculty Senate and a member of the UI president search committee, to talk about the the simmering controversy over the selection of former IBM executive Bruce Herrald to be the new university president.

Catholic News Service Photos / Flickr

Pope Francis has raised eyebrows, cheers, and criticism for what some call his 'radical' teachings--on same-sex couples, climate change, and immigration. As he visits the United States next week, Catholics are hopeful he'll continue to address social injustice while building bridges to the world's larger, non-Catholic population. 

Father Bud Grant, a priest in Davenport and professor at St. Ambrose University, points to the Pope's recent encyclical on climate change as evidence of this trend.

Metal Chris / Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons

Many decry the coarsening of our political discourse. History demonstrates that politics has always been a "contact sport." But over the years Iowa's social capital has allowed Iowans to disagree without being disagreeable.

Mstyslav Chernov

The crisis at the Serbia-Hungary border continues, as the Hungarian government closes the border, leaving hundreds of refugees and migrants stranded.

On this politics day edition of River to River, political experts Jim McCormick and Wayne Moyer talk with Ben Kieffer about the migrant crisis.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Despite the fact that the legislature has increased state funding for water quality initiatives by millions of dollars since the 1980s, we haven't seen substantial improvements since then.

That’s according to Keith Schilling, who researches water for the Iowa Geological Survey.

“I recently looked at 50 rivers’ nitrate levels. Only six had changed since 1980, and those increased in nitrate concentration,” he says.

Photo Courtesy Daniel Moon

Twenty years ago in Iowa, the influx of latino workers and their families was a large topic of conversation. Today, refugee programs are working with more than 180 different languages and are helping migrants from all over the world navigate culture in Iowa, and starting to include ideas of sexual identity and socio-economic status in the conversation.

During this hour of River to River, we hear from Henny Ohr, Executive Director of the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, about the influx of refugees from Burma who have been relocating to Iowa.

kc7fys / Flickr

When the closure of two of Iowa's four mental health institutes was announced earlier this year, there was huge backlash from the mental health community. But Dr. Michael Flaum, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, says he's not overly concerned. 

Ben Kieffer

This edition of River to River kicks off Iowa Public Radio’s Iowa Week with the theme “then and now.”

GovernmentZA / Flickr

China’s economic slowdown appears to be having bigger repercussions for other countries than expected.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jonathan Hassid, an Iowa State University professor who studies Chinese news media and symbolic political messaging. He says politics will prevent real economic reform in China. He also discusses China's new display of military power and what this could mean for the future.

Public Domain / Wikimedia

The Japanese surrender in WWII was official with the signing of the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945. But for Jerry Yellin, the war ended with his last combat mission on August 14th, the same day his wing man, 19-year-old Phil Schlamberg from Brooklyn New York disappeared over Japan.

Yellin, who now lives in Fairfield was a Captain in the Army Air Corps and a fighter pilot who flew a P-51. He says he was never wounded and claims he never thought he would die, but he's still haunted by the deaths of every one of the 16 men lost from his squadron of 32. 

John Pemble / IPR

The latest Iowa Poll, conducted by Selzer and Company and published in the Des Moines Register, shows billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential field, with neurosurgeon Ben Carson the second favorite among likely republican caucus-goers.

Beverly and Pack / Flickr

Even though he was responsible for negotiating the Camp David Accords, creating the Departments of Energy and Education, and putting the Iowa Caucuses on the map, President Jimmy Carter was also plagued by the Iran Hostage Crisis and rising 'stag-flation' during his presidency.  Much of his legacy came from after he left the presidency, with the Carter Center and humanitarian efforts.

Courtesy of the Economic Policy Institiute

The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has ignited a nationwide conversation about racial polarization and civil unrest when it comes to relationships with minorities and the police. 

Johan Larsson / Flickr

Have you ever panicked upon realizing that you've forgotten your cell phone at home? You're not alone, and you may be feeling a twinge of nomophobia. 

That's the term that Iowa State University researchers are using to describe the anxiety that comes along with being away from your smartphone. Caglar Yildirim is a Ph.D. student at Iowa State University and says sometimes its best to set your phone aside when you're at home. 

© Paws & Effect

Last week, 44-year-old Wade Baker, formerly of Marshalltown, died in an exchange of gunfire with police in North Carolina.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer listens back to his conversation with Baker from 2012, where they talked about his struggle with PTSD after serving in the Gulf War and how his psychiatric service and mobility dog, Honor, helped him through daily life.

Ben Kieffer

Since 1967, over 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have taken part in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, often referred to as the “United Nations of writers.”

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with several of this year’s writers who attended a welcome party in Iowa City earlier this week. They share poetry, their hopes for their time in the Midwest, and the struggles and inspiration they have brought with them from their home countries.

Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

Financial literacy has been required as a part of the 21st-Century Skills portion of the Iowa Core for years. But specifics on enforcing the standard are fuzzy, so personal finance and economics classes vary wildly district to district.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s been 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Author and investigative journalist Ari Berman says the legislation was supposed to serve as an enforcement mechanism for the 15th Amendment.

“We passed prohibition on racial discrimination on voting, but we didn’t enforce it. The Voting Rights Act first abolished literacy tests and poll taxes in states they had been used most frequently. Then it sent federal officials to the south to register voters. In places like Selma, only 2% of people were registered to vote.”

tuchodi / Flickr

Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources says blue-green algae blooms are not only a nuisance, some forms of the algae can be harmful to people, pets, and livestock. Mary Skopec of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says bacteria from algae can produce toxins that are damaging to either the liver or nerves.

“A dog can go from being perfectly fine to being dead within a matter of hours, or even minutes, because this can shut down the liver right away," she says.